Thursday, November 7, 2013

Cune winery visit (Haro, Rioja): The tour #DWCC13

I struggled to get out of bed on this, our first full day in Haro. We had had great visits with Bodegas' Gomez Cruzado and Ramón Bilbao over the course of the previous afternoon/evening and had capped those off with a late-night "tasting" session in the hotel lobby. I dragged myself downstairs about 5 minutes before we were scheduled to depart and quickly guzzled down a stabilizing coffee.

We were visiting the Cune winery this morning and, as they were located in the station district, we would be walking. The air was brisk so we set a like pace and arrived at our destination in fairly short order. We had arrived a little early so, while Robert tried to organize things with the Cune officials, we waited around; initially in the courtyard and then indoors in a pre-tour waiting area.

After the passage of some time, we were approached, and welcomed by, Marta Echavarri, the PR Manager, who informed us that the two Marias, the Marketing Director and the Winemaker, would be joining up with us during the course of the tour. And could we begin now, please. As she was speaking to us I could not help but notice this gigantic metal key (of the type sported by medieval jailers in the movies) in her hand. Its use became apparent later but, until then, I was a little concerned.

Marta began by telling us that the Centenarian wineries were all located in this area because of the old train station. The train allowed the wineries to connect with Bordeaux for shipping wine out and shipping barrels in during the time when the Bordelaise were fully engaged in their battle with Phylloxera.

According to Marta, Cune was founded by two brothers -- Raimundo and Eusebio Real de Asúa -- in 1879 and, at the time, was registered as Compania Vinicola del Norte de espana (CVNE). Due to a publishing error, however, the initials CUNE, rather than CVNE, was used in some documents and, given the way the former rolls off the tongue, it came into popular use.

Since its establishment in 1879, the company has expanded by founding additional wineries (Viña Real in 1920 and Viñedos del Contino in 1973) and adding labels under existing winery umbrellas (e.g., Monopole (1915), Imperial (1920), Real de Asúa (1994) under Cune). The table below captures the full extent of the CVNE wines.
CVNE owns over 600 ha of vineyards but this only meets the grape crush needs of Viñedos del Contino and 50% each of the needs of Cune and Viña Real. The remaining needs are met by procurement from long-term growers.
We walked out of the reception building and across a courtyard to the Real de Asúa cellar which is named in honor of the founders and serves as the production center for the Imperial and Real de Asúa lines. The end-to-end operations of the cellar are depicted herein.

About 20 years after Cune's founding, the architectural practice of Gustave Eiffel (Yes, that Eiffel) designed an 800-square-meter, column-free cellar which is today called the Eiffel Cellar and serves as the Real de Asúa barrel room. The structure currently houses about 400 American and French oak barrels of between 2 and 5 years of age.

Our next stop was the "cemetery," a series of underground caves where 500 bottles of each Cune vintage is stored. Entrance to the crypt is via a heavy metal door which is opened, with difficulty, by the large metal key of which I had spoken previously. We left the relative light of the cellar and entered into this dark, dimly lit, warren of narrow passageways with moss- and mold-shrouded bottles deposited in alcoves off the passageways. Stifling and claustrophobic but intersting to see, and hear about, some of the old vintages. Most of the bottles are stored sans labels with the labels applied when they are retrieved for use. The bottles in the cemetry are not for sale. Rather, they are used for special events and tastings at the winery and around the world.

This concluded the winery tour and also coincided with the arrival of Maria, the Marketing Director. One of the shortcomings of the tour was that Marta had to defer a number of questions to the arrival of the two Marias. While that is fine, a lot of questions are also generated from the actual presentation and the quality/number of questions are directly correlated to the depth and quality of the presentation.

I will cover the tasting portion of the visit in a subsequent post.

©Wine -- Mise en abyme

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